Women Lead This Week’s DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights.

It occurs to me that this week’s favorites feature women. Cassandra Cain is spotlighted in Batman and Robin: Eternal, Lois is the co-lead in Superman: Lois & Clark, and Black Canary, of course. Sadly, Superman/Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman title suffer by comparison. On the good side, Plastic Man gets an excellent story that highlights just how dangerous he can be.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR TODAY’S COMICS BELOW.

Note: We’ve updated the list to include Omega Men, Doctor Fate, Harley Quinn/Power Girl, and Superman/Wonder Woman.

The Omega Men #7 – written by Tom King, art by Barnaby Bagenda

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: I remain a staunch supporter of this inventive series.

Ray: One of the most straight-forward issues of this series, it made me realize there’s a perfect parallel for what this book is trying to be – it’s Star Wars by way of Quentin Tarantino. Less violent than he often is, but that same sort of dirty, suspenseful thriller set against the backdrop of another genre. The world that King and Bagenda create manages to be distinctly alien, but full of familiar things that show that no matter how far the cast travels, some things never change. This issue turns the focus on Kyle Rayner and Princess Kalista, who have formed a tight bond since they both wound up as captives of the Omega Men – with Kyle, of course, not knowing that Kalista is the mastermind of the entire group. I’m a bit iffy on Kyle being seemingly okay with Kalista’s main problem-solving technique being stabbing people to death, but I suppose being a space captive changes your view on things. This issue finds them planning to make an escape from the planet on a smuggler’s vessel, despite being the most wanted faces in the galaxy. After trading a family heirloom of Kyle’s for passage to a shady smuggler (and reminding the audience that Kyle’s latino heritage is still continuity!), they pass through an alien version of the TSA that makes ours look friendly, only for Kyle to be the victim of a rather nasty double-cross by his “team”. Another great issue, and King manages to work in some cool Grayson crossover elements in the process. This book was never going to sell well in this market, but with DC allowing it to reach its conclusion, I suspect it’ll do well in collections for a long time.

Corrina: I’ve always said this should have been an original graphic novel rather than a series because every issue builds perfectly on what has gone before. To describe it as intricate wouldn’t be doing the plot justice. It mixes complicated politics with similarly complicated characters on all sides of this rebellion.

That’s why I disagree with Ray’s comparison to Tarantino. His movies are many things but his characters never feel real to me, only over-the-top people put in over-the-top situations. The Omega Men, despite their alienn-ess, feel all too human. This is basically a look inside a terrorist organization that passes no judgment on their cause but pulls apart their methods.  I’m glad to see the focus spring back to Kyle this issue. We’ll see what he becomes by the end of the series.

Once this is in trade, it’ll be talked about in the same breath as Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and the other inventive, experimental comics that have passed the test of time.

Doctor Fate #7 – storytellers, Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew.

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Even if they don’t last too long, I am really glad DC is putting out offbeat books like Omega Men and this one just because they give us the opportunity to see unique storytelling that certainly wouldn’t take place in a bigger name title. Last issue saw Khalid die. Yep, he got eaten by Anubis and is now in the underworld. This being a comic book, though, that’s certainly not the end of the story, as he wakes up in the ancient Egyptian afterlife at the mercy of his nemesis. As Anubis is the God of Death, he reigns in this world, and the scenes where the dark God preps Khalid for his journey to the underworld are creepy, claustrophobic, and some of the most effective this week. He’s only saved by the interference of Bastet, who contacts his father and is able to send a message – to call on Osiris, the God of the Afterlife, who Anubis is planning a coup against. Once Khalid pits the two Gods against each other, he is able to break free of Anubis’ control, reclaim his heart, and escape the afterlife. I’m not sure what this book’s next arc is now that the battle with Anubis is over for the time being, but I’m excited to find out. This book has been a bit slow, but this was a great conclusion and Khalid is a likable, compelling lead whose trial by fire has been a great introduction.

Corrina: I agree with Ray’s consensus that this book has been a bit slow but it’s nailed the landing of the first arc. Khalid, with his Egyptian heritage, was a great choice for the new Doctor Fate. Somehow, seeing a white American stumble through the afterlife with Egyptian gods wouldn’t be the same.

What’s next? I fear cancelation for this book but if it stays, I would love to see more of Khalid’s real world and how his perceptions have been changed. What does it actually mean to be Doctor Fate now that the battle with Anubis is over? Khalid still needs to find his unique place in the DC mythos. (Though it occurs to me that it might be interesting to see him run into Constantine, who’s based in Manhattan.)

Harley Quinn/Power Girl #6 – written by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, art by Stephane Roux

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Not Thrilled With the Wedding Setup but the Jokes Are Funny.

Ray: The conclusion of this flashback miniseries sends Harley and PG on one last final field trip through dimensions and brings us to a suitably bizarre conclusion as Vartox continues to annoy everyone to no end. We begin with a strange wedding ceremony, as this is apparently the only way for Power Girl to get her hands on the teleporter ring that will get them home – a fact that makes Vartox thrilled and Karen much less so. Harley’s hilarious commentary through the wedding aside, a mishap soon lands them in Vartox’s home dimension, where PG is horrified to find a robotic Stepford version of hers and dozens of android kids as Vartox’s family. She soon winds up in a massive suburban brawl with Betty Draper Power Girl, and eventually beats her and tells Vartox off. Harley doesn’t really seem to do all that much this issue besides stand in the background and make meta commentary…which is what she does a lot, and it’s pretty funny. The issue ends with them finally coming home and arriving to beat up the D-list villains that landed them here in the first place. This mini has been amusing enough, but I didn’t feel like it lived up to the main book. A bit too dragged out.

Corrina: Parts of this miniseries have been hilarious and it’s good to see Harley in a setting where she can cut loose without seeming like a villain. I love the breaking of the fourth wall, especially to complain about the lack of a regular series for Power Girl. (I agree!)

But Vartox as a character isn’t worth more than one issue, nevermind the spotlight he’s gotten in this series, and the humor of his fake suburban life with robots didn’t work for me because it went way too far into stalker territory. And made Vartox the worst of slimier in retrospect, so much so that I couldn’t enjoy any of it.

Superman/Wonder Woman #24 – written by Peter J. Tomasi, art by Jaime Mendoza, Doug Mahnke

Ray: 5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy. 

Ray: This issue escapes my wrath a bit compared to the Superman/Wonder Woman annual, which showcased exactly why this series doesn’t work and never will. The saving grace of this issue is that there’s very little focus on Clark and Diana as a couple – it’s more of a standard superhero team-up, as they go up against the evil Bend, Vandal Savage’s second secret son to play a role in this event along with Hordr-Root. Bend has trapped Wonder Woman in some sort of power-draining suit, pitting her against Superman, while they try to rescue Firestorm and battle a group of mind-controlled villains and Shadow monsters. Most of the issue is various explosions, Clark trying to save Diana and arguing with her while she tries to warn him away, and more explosions. Eventually, Clark does wind up pulling a fairly clever move to keep Bend from absorbing all the power he’s stolen from Firestorm, before going back on his deal with Parasite in a way that seems designed to remind us that this is a new, edgier Superman. Bend winds up in prison, where he gets a fatal visit from his dad, and Clark and Diana go their separate ways without sorting anything out. It’s not the worst issue of the series by a long shot, but I doubt I’ll remember anything that happened in this issue tomorrow. This series just doesn’t have a dynamic that makes it memorable.

Corrina: Not the worst but you’ll doubt you’ll remember this book? I admire your persistence, Ray, because if I didn’t receive review copies, I would have never given this book a tryout. I feel bad for the creators on the series because no matter how much talent has been thrown at it, it never rises above mediocre. Perhaps that’s because it’s hard to find a threat for two such powerful people that doesn’t involve world-wide consequences.

I’m also not down with the newer, edgier Superman. Has this pair in this book made life better for anyone in the DC universe? I think not and that’s the saddest part of this pairing.

Batman and Robin Eternal #13 – James Tynion Iv and Scott Snyder, story, James Tynion IV, script, Marcio Takara, artist.

Ray: 9.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: We’re at the halfway point of this six-month event comic, and there hasn’t been anything close to a bad issue yet. I know I say that a lot, but I’m still blown away by the quality and consistency on display here. We got a huge amount of information on Cass’ past two issues ago, but she hasn’t been seen since she freaked out and ran when Harper tugged her hair over a month ago. That changes this issue, as we open with her hitching a ride on an ARGUS jet and parachuting into Mother’s top-secret lair, the Nursery. Last issue’s cliffhanger involving her covered in blood and surrounded by bodies seems like it was a fakeout, which has me relieved. Takara’s art here is fantastic, especially in the segment involving Cass’ descent. This is interspliced with segments involving Cass’ childhood, as we get more insight into just how much of a monster David Cain is, and exactly what kind of twisted operation Mother is running here.

It’s a dark story, but it’s got some really sweet moments involving young Cass and her desire for normalcy and closeness. Things pick up in a big way when David Cain arrives in the present day to confront Cass, and she’s exposed to the horrific truth of what was done to the rest of Mother’s children as she begins liquidating the operation. We get some flashbacks to Cass’ first meeting with Batman, but this is really her spotlight as she finally gets the chance to face off against the monster that made her. Dick and Harper finally track her down and given an assist, but this is her moment. Of course, it doesn’t last, as Mother plans to finish the job – by detonating a thermonuclear bomb inside the lair. The issue’s a bit too James Bond-style OTT at points for the dark themes at play, but it’s still a dramatic, thrilling issue with a great spotlight for one of DC’s most unique characters. Also, can I say how much I love that Dick has started mentoring his own group of Bat-kids? Like father like son.

Corrina: The focus on Cass Cain helps this issue tremendously, as does Takara’s art. It provides Cass with a solid origin and backstory but, most of all, it should show readers new to the character the uniqueness that gained so many fans in her first appearances. That she’s firmly in the Bat-Family fold is great. I hope when Batman eventually returns (Bruce Wayne, that is), we’ll see more of him as the head of a team rather than the brooding loner who gets old fast. Though, I admit, Dick makes a better natural teacher.

This is my favorite issue of this weekly series and, while I’ve bored you all with my dislike for the overall premise more than once, it can’t be denied this is a quality series. However, literally going thermonuclear seems a bit over the top, even for the ominipotent “Mother.” Then again, this is comics.

Clois
Cover to Superman: Lois & Clark #3, image via DC Comics

Superman: Lois and Clark #3 – Dan Jurgens, writer, Lee Weeks, penciller, Scott Hanna, Sergio Cariello, and Lee Weeks, inkers.

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: This is the Superman you want.

Ray: In only a few issues, this comic has been the most pure Superman experience comic readers have gotten since 2011. It’s amazing how Jurgens manages to just neatly slip right back into the pre-Flashpoint Superman and show us exactly what we’ve been missing all these years. The first two issues have mainly focused on exploring Superman and Lois’ new status quo in this new world, and on Intergang targeting Lois Lane. This issue jacks up the threat in a big way, as we find out what Superman has been doing in the last few years and introduces a major new villain. Blanque, a sadistic villain with vaguely defined psychic powers, is first seen destroying a small town and terrorizing Superman, until Superman refuses to kill him and instead decides to take care of him a different way – establishing a top-secret prison inside a mountain for his most dangerous enemies, including the newly arrived Hank Henshaw. However, the two being housed together turns out to be a very bad idea when Henshaw starts manifesting powers over technology just like his pre-Flashpoint version – and Blanque uses the opportunity to take control over him.

As good as the superhero segments are, I’ve got to say, it’s the segments at home between Clark, Lois, and their son that really sell this series. Clark is the perfect Superman, Lois is just as strong as she ever was, and Jon is the rare kid character who sounds like a kid without being cloying or cartoonish. This is the Superman book we deserve, and I really wish more people were paying attention to it. It needs more sales!

Corrina: If you like angsty-loner ‘alien’ Superman, don’t buy it. But if you like your Clark Kent/Superman as a good guy with a solid upbringing who tries to do the right thing at all times, this is the story for you. (Not to mention for any fans of Lois Lane.)

What the Superman stories lack at the moment is any sense of community. When you blow up the entire supporting cast around Superman by disconnecting him from the Daily Planet, it has to be replaced with something that grounds the character and makes him relatable but mostly Superman in his other comics has been floating around with no home base. However, this series does that right. Lois and Clark are separated from the Daily Planet but because their relationship is front and center, it feels like a solid base, especially in their relationship with their son. It’s also a good lesson in how to use Superman’s powers effectively–the new base, the secret missions–without making him so angry.

Of all the books I’m worried about losing next year, this one is at the top of the list.

Cover to Black Canary #6, image via DC Comics
Cover to Black Canary #6, image via DC Comics

Black Canary #6 – Brenden Fletcher, writer, Annie Wu, artist

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: I’m not sure who has had the best year among DC up-and-comers – Tom King or Brendan Fletcher. King has the bigger name, but Fletcher has quietly spearheaded three of DC’s best books at the moment – Batgirl, Gotham Academy, and this quirky road-trip band adventure. When we last left off, Dinah was about to take the stage in an epic battle of the bands, only to be upstaged by the return of the band’s evil former lead singer, Bo Maeve – who has just undergone surgeries to get her own Canary Cry. While Dinah isn’t sure that she wants to face off with Maeve, Ditto is determined to go on stage, and soon enough, the band is caught in an epic showdown that comes off as part Jem and the Holograms, part Kill Bill.

These pages are easily the most impressive of the issue, but things go very wrong when Ditto gets caught in the middle of a massive chord showdown and Kurt jumps in to protect her – only for them to vanish into thin air. Dinah is quickly ushered into a limo by the record company, who turn out to know much more about this than we thought. (We also learn that one of the band members has an interesting connection to Gotham Academy). When the band arrives at the studio, they’re met with the man in charge – a much older Kurt Lance? Got to say, whenever Kurt is front and center, my interest flags a little bit, because I’ve always found him the least interesting part of New 52 Dinah’s story. However, I’m still really intrigued by the whole plot and looking forward to what Ditto’s origin is. This is another offbeat book that really deserves more sales.

Corrina: Climatic issue? Oh, heck, yes, and the creators manage to make a battle of the bands into an epic confrontation between Canary and Maeve, with a nod to what’s great about rock ‘n’ roll, and also manage to present some beautiful character moments.

So, Ditto and Kurt disappeared and now Kurt is older Kurt in the present day? I did not see that coming. Does that mean Ditto is in the present day, grown-up or is she the same as ever, given she’s possibly some sort of alien or a mutant? And where does that Canary-like figure dressed in white come in?

May the next six issue of this book be as good as the first.

Justice League #47

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Meh.

Ray: The last few issues were lagging a bit for me, but as Justice League delivers its final issue of 2015 and heads into the second act of Darkseid War, Johns and Fabok deliver a compelling packed issue. It starts with a face-off between the two characters behind the most important one-shots – Batman and Green Lantern. Hal Jordan has the unique perspective of having touched the near-limitless power of the New Gods and rejecting it. Batman, on the other hand – usually the most human of the JL members – has taken the powers of Metron and run with them, believing he can use them to enhance his war on crime. However, it’s pretty clear they’re taking a toll on his mind. It’s pretty interesting to see Hal as the skeptic about cosmic power and Bruce as the believer.

I was a little less interested in the showdown between Superman and Wonder Woman, as the role of the God of Power gets to Superman’s head and causes him to attack Diana. It seems like Clark gets taken over by something malevolent every other month these days and someone has to fight him to get him out of it. I did like that Diana essentially broke the power’s hold on him by making him realize he was truly Clark Kent, not Superman – a reveal I think would have been no secret in the pre-Flashpoint universe, but a bit more surprising here given how few ties he seems to have to humanity in most of his own books. While Grail schemes to get her hands on Steve Trevor, the first man to ever set foot on Paradise Island, and Mobius is reborn from his Anti-Monitor form into his original form, the main plot of the issue finds Cyborg and Power Ring working with Mister Miracle and Big Barda to break into the high-security wing of Belle Reve to meet with the remains of the Crime Syndicate. It goes bad quickly, as Volthoom takes over Power Ring’s ring and corrupts Cyborg’s mainframe, resurrecting Grid. The pregnant Superwoman is about to kill the heroes when Owlman shows up, warning them that to stop their common enemy, they’ll have to work together. This really does feel like a sequel to Forever Evil at this point, but I’m personally enjoying it more than that event. Looking forward to what happens as we head into the final act.

Corrina: I have event fatigue. Series/serious event fatigue. Forever Evil took far too long and that’s affecting my view of this event which seems to be a sequel to an event that I already thought went on far too long. Ack. Are they arguing about how bad the New Gods’ powers are still? Yes, they are, with Hal Jordan as the voice of reason. Yes, there’s that bit with Wonder Woman remembering she’s supposed to be compassionate and Clark Kent remembering who he is but that’s about three pages of the total.

Now we have the Crime Syndicate back and there’s more war and…did anyone on the DCU Earth recover yet from Forever Evil that turned it all dark for a time and lead to worldwide chaos? Yep, apparently so. They must have hit the Staples “Recover From Worldwide Superhero War” easy button.

I vote they push that button again and make the next issue the final of this war. But, no, Ray says we’re onto part 2. No, I don’t recommend you buy this. Unless you’re on Ray’s wavelength. It’s certainly not going to convert any non-comics fans.

Superman Annual #3 – script, Greg Pak, Gene Yang, Peter J. Tomasi, Aaron Huder. Pencils, Dan Jurgens, Rafa Sandoval, Ben Oliver. Inks, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ben Oliver.

Ray: 6/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: This comic is more of a jam issue than anything, with all four regular Superman writers collaborating on the script and several different artists drawing it. The story is split between segments focusing on Vandal Savage and Superman himself. The latter are the more interesting ones, I think. Savage’s segments follow him from Caveman times, when he first gained immortality via a meteor (that we find out here was directed towards Earth by Kryptonians) and immediately proceeded to murder his father. However, he’s increasingly obsessed with finding the meteor again and getting more power from it, and this quest takes him from ancient China, to Rome, to Nazi Germany as he tries and fails to find the meteor again, and murders anyone who gets in his way or fails him. It almost comes off like a comedy sketch at points.

The Superman segments bookend this by showing Superman’s obsession with reclaiming his powers as well, but his motivations are more noble – he’s simply not able to save as many people as he used to, and this is eating at him. Luthor, of course, is gleefully lording Superman’s decreased powers over him by leaving him out of Justice League mission calls, but Superman still tries to help people as best he can – until things go horribly wrong courtesy of Savage. It’s not a terrible issue and the characterization of Superman is actually decent here, but I’m ready for this story to be over in a number of ways. Savage isn’t that great a villain, and I want to see Superman doing spectacular things instead of wishing he could.

Corrina: This is just kinda ‘meh’ as it revisits the entire plot of Superman without powers, while giving us background on the man supposedly behind that change, Vandal Savage. In a way, readers could have skipped the last year of Superman storylines and just read the annual to catch up.

However, the Sienkiewicz adds a nice stylistic element to the book and helps knit the stories together.

Or you could just skip this entire thing and read the Lois and Clark book.

Wonder Woman #47 – Meredith Finch, writer, Miguel Mendonca, penciller, Dexter Vines, inker. 

Ray: 5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: A pretty lackluster issue, as the huge developments – Donna Troy is the new Fate, Ares and former Big Bad Apollo are back along the living – are barely even touched on in this installment. David Finch isn’t doing the art here, which gives this the feel of a filler issue – which it may have been intended to be, given that there’s one line about the new status quo thrown off in an almost cursory manner. The main plot has Cheetah coming to the island in search of an ancient stone that will give her immortality – and, if taken off the island, will strip the Amazons of their eternal life. Cheetah kills a bunch of Amazons in the process, and while pursuing her, Diana comes across one of the survivors of the Amazons’ massacre of their brothers at the start of this run. There’s a lot of arguing between them, but it seems more like a side plot as Diana has to leave to chase down Cheetah. They face off at the temple, but Diana is stopped from pursuing her inside by the laws of the Gods. Cheetah is essentially hoisted on her own petard – Gods don’t like to play nice with other Gods, it seems – and runs off to steal something else. It’s just a very forgettable issue that feels like it would have been slid in from one of Sensation Comics’ weaker issues more than anything else.

Corrina: I spent some time studying the cover of this issue (see featured image) because Cheetah seemed to be missing some limbs. Yes, comic art doesn’t have to be realistic but I shouldn’t stare at artwork and wonder “who the heck things bodies work that way?” (A combination of David Finch, Jonathan Glapion and Brad Anderson is credited with the cover. Perhaps that’s why it’s so disjointed?)

Cheetah and Diana don’t have much of a confrontation in the end, so that’s anti-climatic. Of more interest is the talk between Diana and her brother. This is yet another scene in which someone yells at Diana for failing them. She gets a lot of that in this run and none of it is interesting to read. Oh, and, yes, that slaughetered Amazons seem to be just cannon fodder because Diana shrugs them off and basically lets Cheetah go. What? I can’t even with this book.

Flash #47. a good representation of the art inside. Image via DC Comics
Flash #47. a good representation of the art inside. Image via DC Comics

The Flash #47 – Robert Venditti and Van Jensen, writers, Brett Booth, penciller, Norm Rapmund, inker.

Ray: 5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy.

Ray: It’s the end of the biggest story arc of this run, as Barry finally faces off against the Reverse Flash for the life of his father. Brett Booth’s art has always been the strongest part of this series, as the guy is really good with kinetic art and big action segments. He doesn’t disappoint here, as he manages to really capture the feel of a battle between two speedsters, each desperate to win. However, the issue is lacking in a lot of other ways, particularly in the characterization of Thawne himself. It doesn’t help that the title is doing this storyline on the heels of the best portrayal of Thawne ever, Tom Cavanaugh’s performance in The Flash TV series. Compared to his cold, cunning mastermind, this Thawne comes off like a rambling lunatic, more akin to a low-level Batman villain who belongs in Arkham. His grudge against Flash is ill-defined and comes off as more like a petulant child than anything. Once Barry defeats him and he’s sent off to prison, Barry is able to clear his father’s name. However, the ending hints that Flash’s reputation is still destroyed, and that’s not a plot line I’m really looking forward to. Either way, a decent conclusion to the arc, but forgettable and driven down by a weak villain.

Corrina: I’m going to take a second to talk about the artwork. I can’t say it’s necessarily bad but, to me, it brings the entire storyline down because I find it ugly and unpleasant. It drives me away from the story. Perhaps under a different artist, I might be forgiving of a slim storyline in which Thawne basically blames Flash for simply existing, but add the art and the one-note villain, and this becomes a forgettable series.

Too bad, given there has to be interest in Barry Allen Flash because of the success of the television show.

Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #2 – writers, Keith Champagne, K. Perkins, Sholly Fish, artists, ChrisCross, Ken Lashley,  Matthew Clark, pencils, Sean Parsons

Ray: 3/10

Corrina: I can’t believe this series lives and Gotham by Midnight is dead.

Ray: Much like the Superman annual this week, this is sort of a jam issue, this one broken up into three distinct creative teams and stories, focusing on the beginning, middle, and end of Clark’s relationship with Diana. There’s the big reveal this issue that Clark has been planning to propose to Diana for some time, a reveal that doesn’t really feel like it’s been given proper buildup in the comics. Fact is, this relationship doesn’t work. It really hasn’t ever worked in the comics, and this comic seems designed to illustrate that. But we knew that already. The first story, by Tomasi and Marco Santucci, has some decent moments in the early days of their relationship, particularly when they visit Atlantis, but they remain a bland couple.

The second story, by K. Perkins and Ken Lashley, has the power couple fight a wayward Demigod and then argue over Diana not telling Clark that she’s the new God of war. The third story, by Scholly Fisch and Matthew Clark, takes place after Superman loses his powers and has conflict between them over him feeling sidelined now that she’s so much more powerful than him. Superman basically comes off as petulant and sulking in this story. Fisch is a great Superman writer usually, but this relationship has basically sucked all the joy out of all three stories in this book. Clark and Diana – especially compared to Lois and Clark in this week’s other Superman title – just have no chemistry and don’t work either as a couple or as a joint title.

Corrina: Clark’s art in the last story is excellent and suits the mood of the tale, and that’s the best I can say about this book. They are a bland couple. They’re far too alike to cause real sparks between them, especially since this Clark is the angsty loner-type. Over on Twitter, Gail Simone suggested that Diana ditch Superman for Lois Lane. Now, that pairing is interesting for the same reason Lois and Clark are interesting: conflict and contrast. Lois is human but not intimidated by anyone or anything that keeps her from the truth. She views her work as a public service. Diana, of course, is as completely removed from the nitty gritty of human life as Lois is invested in it, and yet they’re both seekers after the truth. You could do a lot to make that pairing interesting, just as the Justice League animated series did a lot to make Batman/Wonder Woman interesting. (And how fanfic writers make Batman/Superman interesting. Same concept.)

But put two alike characters into a relationship and all you get are two gods busy agreeing to fight stuff together. There’s a reason ancient Greek tales focused on romances (though tragic ones, usually) between gods and demigods or gods and mortals. That’s because Zeus and Hera working together in harmony is about the dullest storyline possible. Same goes for Superman and Wonder Woman.

Batman: Europa #3, cover, image via DC Comics
Batman: Europa #3, cover, image via DC Comics

Batman: Europa #3 – story, Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello, layouts, Guiseppe Camuncoli, art, Diego LaTorre.

Ray: 4/10

Corrina: Fascinating Painted art, Not Much Story.

Ray: I’m in favor of interesting stylistic choices in comic books, but not when they actually interfere with the storytelling. That’s unfortunately the case with this issue, where Batman and Joker arrive in Paris, seeking to find the cure for their mysterious illness as it takes a toll on their health and sanity. As the virus increases its hold, the art itself is affected, making the visuals more and more blurry. While I appreciate the effect, it makes an already bland comic near-unreadable in places. The plot is fairly basic – Batman and Joker arrive in Paris, Batman talks a bit about the history of Paris, and then they walk through the catacombs. They come across a group of clowns that seem to worship Joker, then battle a few robot threats before coming across the body of the girl they were hunting for. This leads them to Rome, as they continue to banter awkwardly throughout the book. This really just isn’t a story that’s working, and it reminds me more than anything of the slight, forgettable stories that made up the latter half of Batman: Confidential. For what was supposed to be a prestige project, this feels like it’s sort of petering out.

Corrina: The story is thin because the point of this series mostly seems to be having the Joker and Batman visit famous European cities. Like Ray, I’m impressed with the ambition of showing Batman’s deteriorating mental state via the art except it becomes so murky that the story itself becomes unreadable. It’s like watching an action sequence in a movie that’s only 1/4 lit.

Also, the banter doesn’t work. Not after the long list of murders committed by the Joker. He’s just not team-up material. This might have been interesting with the Riddler but, then again, I’m sure the series wouldn’t have been approved with the Riddler as guest-star.

Out of Continuity Reviews:

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four Annual #1 – Tom Taylor, writer, Bruno Redondo, pencils & layouts, Sergio Sandoval, inks and finishes, Jordi Tarragona, finishes. 

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Plastic Man Fans, Yes!

Ray: Man, this issue made me nostalgic. Remember how good Injustice was under the first two years of Tom Taylor? An intense, gritty look at how Superman went from the world’s greatest hero to its greatest villain. Then it became about Superman punching demons and Gods. This issue, by Tom Taylor returning for a one-issue engagement before he jumps onto GL and Batman Superman, takes us right back to those early years, as well as giving a spotlight to a pair of my favorite underrated DC heroes. The issue opens with a pair of low-level saboteurs making a failed strike against Superman – one of them being Luke McDonough, aka Offspring. When Plastic Man finds out that his son’s been arrested and taken to Superman’s underground prison, he demands his release. Superman refuses, which leads Plastic Man to begin a complicated heist plan to break his son out from the most secure prison in the world – even if it means cutting a deal with the world’s most notorious villains. We haven’t seen this great a spotlight for Plastic Man since the days of the Joe Kelly Justice League. Injustice is one of the grimmest comics on the stands usually, but this issue has a surprising amount of humor and even hope in it. The final arc of Injustice begins next month, but I lost a lot of my interest in this series long ago. This annual brought some of it back.

Corrina: This isn’t so much an alternate history tale as a Plastic Man breaks into and out of prison tale and it works great. I’ve mostly ignored Injustice because there’s only so much evil Superman that I can take but it has had some great character moments and this whole issue is one of them.

Ray Goldfield is a writer/editor for Grayhaven Comics, as well as the author of two novels currently in editing. He’s a comic fan for over 20 years, particularly of DC and Superman, Batman, and the Teen Titans in particular. Now that Cassandra Cain is coming back, he will not rest until DC greenlights a Young Justice: Season Three comic.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received these comics for review purposes.

Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.